At first this book presents as a deep, broad, wide family saga in the tradition of R.F. Delderfield. And a very nice one, too. But wait - there's more! As the book unfolds, more and more aspects become evident, each one nestling within the enfolding hills of the story of the extended Wetherby family like wrapped gifts under a Christmas tree.
The first surprise is the element of erotica, with its naughty spanking scenes. Although I'm not in general a fan of erotica, I had to say this is very well done, with authenticity (as far as I can tell) and grit, while at the same time good taste is never offended. Peabody well knows the distinction between erotica and pornography and never strays from the right path, even while one can almost taste the sweat. I've not often seen erotic passages handled so well - especially given the extreme nature of some of it, the fact that at no time did this rather prudish reader find it offensive speaks volumes.
The second surprise is the gripping adventure novel of the trenches of the First War, which emerges in the second half of the book. Again, I'm not a fan of battlefield scenes, but I could hardly put the book down. I could smell the cordite so that it stung my eyes. Beautifully executed, and if Mr Peabody is not a veteran of active service I should be very much surprised.
Finally, as the book draws to a close, the mounting tension of the final chapters gave me one of the most exciting espionage reads I've ever encountered.
It's an unusual combination, but the disparate elements somehow manage to combine and work well together, giving the reader a wonderful read across at least four genres, even if romance is not taken to be one of them.
There were a few places where I felt the work could have done with a little more polish, but all in all a highly satisfying read, and I really cannot wait to see what Mr Peabody will give us next.
(reviewed the day of purchase)